‘Don’t Let the Dust Settle’ on asbestos campaign reignites call for register

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A new campaign is drawing attention to the dangers of asbestos, while refusing to back down on solutions which it says could prevent thousands more people dying each year.

Don’t Let the Dust Settle campaign, run by national charity, Mesothelioma UK, highlights that asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK each year.

More than 5,000 people die from asbestos-related cancers in the UK every year, more than half of those deaths are from mesothelioma for which there is no cure. 

The campaign is taking up again two key recommendations of the Work and Pensions Committee inquiry into the management of asbestos.

In 2022, the Committee recommended the UK creates a digital register of asbestos in all buildings. It also called on the government to begin phased removal of asbestos, prioritising schools and hospitals.

Liz Darlison CEO of Mesothelioma UK and MP Jane Hunt. Photograph: Mesothelioma UK

Both recommendations were rejected in the government’s response of July last year, which committee chair and MP Stephen Timms described as ‘extremely disappointing.’

Commenting in support of Don’t Let the Dust Settle campaign, Timms said today: “The 1999 ban on using asbestos didn't make it a thing of the past. It’s still in our buildings and causes over 5,000 deaths per year.

“This risk from asbestos will increase in coming decades, as we retrofit buildings to meet net zero targets. To prevent needless deaths and suffering, we need to act decisively, and finally make asbestos history.

"We need a central register so that we know where all the asbestos is and in what condition it is. We also need to set a timeframe for its safe removal, prioritising the highest risk asbestos from settings such as schools and hospitals. The clock is ticking.”

HSE estimates that between 210,000 and 400,000 buildings in the UK contain asbestos.

Other sources say that there are about six million tonnes of asbestos, spread across approximately 1.5 million buildings – the most asbestos per capita in Europe.

A recent study of 128,761 buildings in the UK by National Organisation of Asbestos Consultants showed that 71 per cent had some level of damaged asbestos which is the most dangerous kind. It found evidence that management of this asbestos was poor and failing. 

The campaign launched on 3 April 2023 to coincide with Global Asbestos Awareness Week which runs from 1-7 April.

It is supported by a broad range of individuals and organisations including politicians, healthcare providers, cancer charities, asbestos removal firms and trade unions.

Jane Hunt MP for Loughborough said she was ‘extremely proud’ to have Mesothelioma UK charity in her constituency, which provides specialist care and support to patients and families affected by mesothelioma. “I will do all that I can to support their mission for a future without mesothelioma by calling time on asbestos. Together we will not 'let the dust settle' on this issue.”

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